Communication at GitHub and the Sparano Scale™

Two links; ribbed, for your pleasure.

The first one is a list of 15 rules for communicating at GitHub. Like everything else involved in communication, they’re not hard and fast rules, but they’re well-written and I consciously try to follow some of them at my own workplace. That link is here: http://ben.balter.com/2014/11/06/rules-of-communicating-at-github/

The second link is a bit sillier: it’s a way to categorize everything ever into four easy-to-remember categories: Not Good™, which implies that a thing is so bad as to not even be considered good (this is the second-largest category); Not Great™, which implies that a thing has good qualities but has not jumped the fence (this is the largest category); Good™, which implies a thing is overall pleasing and positive but may have minor flaws or mistakes (the second-smallest category); and Great™, which implies a fantastic idea, masterful execution, and being near what you might consider perfection (which is not a Category™ but you might push it yourself). That link is here: http://oxidedesign.com/the-sparano-scale/

Enjoy.

“Baseball is boring.”

So I found this article in the Atlantic that takes a bunch of baseball stats, does some analysis on them, and basically sets out to explain why baseball is becoming less and less interesting, and why less and less people are tuning in to watch it. You can find that link here.

It’s a fine article. It makes some good points. I don’t fully disagree with it. I showed it to my dad, and he had some strong opinions on it, and I wanted to post them because I think they’re really interesting to read through. My dad’s been watching and listening to baseball since he was a kid, so he has a wider perspective on this. I’ll let him do the talking (barely edited for clarity).

I read this and wanted to reach through the screen to punch the writer.  Yes, power numbers are down and it can be attributed to fewer juiced batters.  Also, more interleague play takes a few DHs out of at-bats.  Yes, umpires are calling the “low” strike more consistently, but there are players (like Matt Adams in St. Louis) that are not only accustomed to the low strike, they thrive on it.  The strike zone means nothing in this equation.  The near-extinction of gorilla ball is a difference maker.  Someone in the comments [of the Atlantic article] made mention of aluminum bats, but with the BBCOR standards, alloy bats play like wood.  There’s an outcry about the lack of home runs in college ball, particularly the CWS.  People don’t want to see refined pitching, speedy defenses, and calculated risks.  They want cavemen with clubs.

As to the popularity, baseball is not a violent game.  Football is.  Americans like violence.  With the rules changes that nearly eliminate home plate collisions, you make the play at the plate less exciting, less chest-thumping.  There is more of an emphasis on speed and defense.  You’ve heard, perhaps, of Whitey Herzog, onetime manager of Kansas City and St. Louis.  Hey built his teams around a philosophy that has come to be known as “Whiteyball.”  You’ve heard of Moneyball, this is similar.  Pitchers pitch to contact, defense is fast and agile.  You had players like Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee, Tommy Herr, Terry Pendleton, and Vince Coleman—players whose first step was so quick that they could chase down a ball and make a play no matter where it was.  On the offense, guys drew walks, infield singles, then stole bases.  Station-to-station baseball.  Even catchers bunted.  There was the occasional Jack Clark, the power threat at first base, but mostly small-ball.  I once watched a game where Vince Coleman walked to start the game, stole second on the next pitch, and scored on an infield single (yes, infield, yes, from second) by Willie McGee.  Seven pitches into the game, one run and no outs with no balls leaving the infield.  It’s hard to defend raw speed.

One of the less-talked-about things that hurts baseball is radio.  You can’t miss a day without a baseball game on cable.  But if you don’t have cable, that dynamic is different.  If you go back in time when baseball had fewer teams and more dedicated fans, the difference was radio.  Yep, yep, yep—radio.  If you couldn’t be at the game, you listened to it on the radio.  Nowadays there are few games on the radio.  More emphasis is put on TV and streaming media.  You don’t reach the impoverished areas of southwest Detroit, south Chicago, or south-central Los Angeles with streaming media.  You reach it with radio.  Satellite radio has games on all the time—for a price.  I don’t know too many ten-year-olds that have satellite radio.  Even fewer who listen to ballgames with their dad.

MLB already has gone to a flat-seamed ball.  It reduces the break on a curve.  Makes it easier to hit.  In the 70s, they made the mound shorter, made it easier for batters to see and catch up with the fastball.  I think dropping the mound too much makes this look like slow-pitch softball.

No national stars?  Sure there are, one for every team.  The problem is that there was an era of expansion in which there were barely enough players to staff and now there is a dilution of talent between Low-A, High-A, AA, AAA, Fall League, Winter Ball, and The Show.  There are sooooo many players out there that need reps and exposure and to play.  It’s hard to have a star when you have four guys able to take his position if he gets the sniffles.  Last year, Matt Adams was hitting .485 after about 100 at-bats and was not playing every day.  The Cards also had the highest scoring offense in the NL.  Everybody was producing.  Adams had an 0-fer and sat out three days.  Meanwhile, Allen Craig had an historic season.  Two guys nobody had heard of last year ended up being just what the team needed—after letting Carlos Beltran go in the offseason and trading David Freese (yes, World Series hero) a season after letting MVP Albert Pujols go.  Stars are expensive and mobile.  If you develop, you don’t need stars, you’ve got a guy at AAA on speed dial.

This turned into more of a rant than I had expected.  I, for one, enjoy the calculated chess match that is current major-league ball.  20-16 games devastate pitching staffs and can ruin a road trip.  4-3 games over after 2 ½ hours are thrilling.  I like football and hockey, but baseball will always be my true love.

The second-to-last paragraph is probably my favorite, and I think contributes heavily to the problems facing the MLB. Name recognition is hard enough with huge rotating staffs, let alone guys that switch teams. There are relatively few interesting plays (as in Whiteyball) because everyone is just that consistent and good. They have to be, or they won’t be in the majors long.

I have a lot of trouble watching baseball on TV. Even if it’s one of my teams! This is the saddest thing to me. Three years ago, I was watching a World Series game — a World Series game! — in which my Cardinals were playing, and it was a close game… and I was drifting off every ten minutes as the game dragged on for more than four hours.

Maybe I’m just not patient. Maybe I’m not a “true fan.” But heck if I am going to try extraordinarily hard to watch a sport on TV if I’ve gotta hit the caffeine just to make it through.

Let’s revisit Kenny Bell’s Wisconsin block.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about or don’t remember, this Deadspin article covers it pretty well. (And plays it in slow-motion, which is fantastic.)

Let’s dial up the original gif, in all its glory:

Kenny Bell

Fantastic. Now, what happens if we, ah, take Kenny out?

not actually Kenny Bell

Not only does this prove even harder that this was a technically clean hit, it also looks like something out of goddamn Paranormal Activity.

Happy Halloween!

Emojis Suck, an Android Keyboard Adventure

So, if you have an Android phone like myself, and you use the default keyboard like myself, and you’re on Kit Kat, the latest update, like myself, then your texting screen looks something like this:

googleboard

Which is okay. It functions as a keyboard. But, and this is the largest problem by far, that completely fucking asinine emoticon button is cornered between the backspace key and the period key, which are probably the second- and third-most pressed buttons on the keyboard, after spacebar.

And if you graze the emoticon button, then the backspace key moves. So if you’re typing fast, you can’t even delete all the happy faces and anchors you just typed without seriously hunting for the stupid thing.

This button didn’t use to exist all the time, but now it does, and it’s pissed me off enough that I’ve gone looking for another keyboard, because that’s a thing you can do with Android. So I went off to Google and found four hip new keyboards, collected from a couple different posts, for trying.

First was Minuum, a tiny tiny keyboard that prides itself on maintaining maximum screen real estate. There are only like 10 buttons, and you let the autocorrect do the rest. It’s an interesting concept. Ultimately, though, it was really hard for me to hunt for letters, and adding symbols is very nontrivial. I don’t want a learning curve for my keyboard. Next!

Next was Dextr, a “nu” idea for keyboards. Seriously, go click on that link, and tell me how completely arbitrary that layout looks. The letters are laid out in alphabetical order, and the edge letters are too close to the edge of the screen for me to hit them reliably (I have an OtterBox on my phone, because I drop it sometimes). It seems like something that could maybe work if you took the time to learn it, but again, that’s not the goal. Next!

Third was SwiftKey, which is a fairly straightforward alternative keyboard. It’s best known for its Swype features, but has other simple features like being able to move and resize it, as well as silly features like applying themes and syncing your autocorrect data to the cloud. I played with it for a while, it was fine, though I didn’t feel it offered anything over the default keyboard (the emoticon button is still kind of there, too, but you have to hold the enter key).

Fourth was TouchPal. Don’t be led astray by the app name, it really has very little to do with emojis in its free form. I’ve seen TouchPal described as a keyboard with too many features for its own good, but honestly you can turn off almost anything, so it ends up just requiring slightly more configuration out of the box. Here’s a shot of the same message link as above, but with the TouchPal keyboard:

singlekey

 

So right away you notice there’s lots of buttons at the top. These are sort of customizable, and actually the part I like the least about TouchPal. The hand lets you access settings (neat) as well as themes (don’t care) and the store (don’t care). The EN icon lets you switch keyboards and languages (more on that in a second). The <I> gives you four arrow keys and a host of select/copy/paste buttons, which are fantastic. You won’t use them much, but man is selecting exact text hard on a small screen. The + just lets you add other shortcuts, which I don’t remember and aren’t important. (The V shrinks the keyboard.)

The number/symbol pad is laid out well, in my opinion, it has numbers in the num pad format, instead of across the top row. There is no possible way to access emoticons from this screen. In fact I don’t even remember where they where, or where they could be. They’re just gone.

Already this seems good enough for me. There are a couple small tweaks you can make to autocorrect and things that are nice. Nothing that would change my decision but they certainly reinforce it. You’ve sold me. So what’s behind the EN button?

Well, you can actually swap keyboard layouts in the same language. If you had a flip phone with texting years back, you’re familiar with T9, which was the way to text on a phone without a keyboard. You just clicked the buttons in the right order and the phone’s dictionary figured out what you were trying to say. There’s a T9 option, which I didn’t take a picture of but looks like you’d expect.

What completely blows me away is this intermediate mode, termed T+:

doublekey

For a person with fat fingers who types fast, this layout is a godsend. I think I’ve had to pick the second guessed result, instead of the first, maybe once in the last day or so. It is so incredibly tight. Sometimes it’s even smart enough to split up two words you’ve typed back to back (sometimes I miss the space bar).

If you’re that person, and you also like to throw in non-dictionary words that you could conceivably reuse (like “Spelunky”, for example), then it is exactly two buttons presses to switch back into full-keyboard mode, where you can type your word normally, and it is exactly one button press after you’ve completed your word to add it to your personal dictionary. (If you don’t want to save a word, like “aaaahhhh!”, then you don’t need to dismiss any dialogs or click on anything special, you just press twice to switch keyboards, type your garbage word, then keep typing or switch keyboards again.)

Spoiler: that person is me, and maybe it’s you, and maybe you should pick up TouchPal if you have an Android phone and you hate the emoticon button, or you have fat fingers, or you just want to be like me in all the small ways.

Three semesters left.

Had a talk with my adviser today about what I have left to graduate. With a year and a half to go, I’m looking at 30 credit hours, minimum, left.

Conceivably, that’s a single year, with an early graduation, and 15 hours a semester. In reality, that’s not something I need to do. I’m not in a hurry.

My plan is to take 12 credit hours, the minimum, for the next three semesters, which will knock out all my silly gen-ed requirements (ugh, philosophy) as well as some upper-level computer science level classes.

This also leaves room for, give or take, six hours of completely free credits. Credits that I need to stay a full-time student (important for scholarship reasons) but not for anything else.

I will probably end up filling that with more computer science courses. Might as well, right? But I have the room, and can make the time, for something less useful but more fun, like a WWII class, or an art class, or something completely different.

I’m really glad that everything worked out well. Dual-enrollment in high school, as well as taking 34 credits last year, put me ahead of where I need to be, and that’s right where I want to be.

This also gives me plenty of room to continue working at Hudl through next semester, which is probably the best way to get computer science knowledge and experience, as well as cash in pocket.

So, a good day!